Big Thompson Flood remembrance

Looking west into the narrows after the Big Thompson Flood July 31, 1976

From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Michelle Vendegna):

For more than 20 years, Anderson has organized the event that commemorates the 1976 flood that started with heavy rain on July 31, 1976. It caused a massive surge of water to race down the Big Thompson Canyon with little warning, resulting in the deaths of 144 people.

Community members have gathered yearly at the memorial outside the volunteer firehouse to remember those victims. Five candles are lit for those who were never found: Rochelle Rogers, Teresa Graham, George McCarty, Vernon Oler and Evelyn Kindred.

Monday night, Pastor Paul Logue from Estes Park Baptist church officiated while Jerry Shaffer provided music and Daryle Klassen offered a tribute.

Bob Graham shared his memories of losing his wife Beverly and two young daughters. Teresa and Lisa. He also lost his mother, Clara Graham.

Graham recounted his experience both during and after the flood.

“It would have been unbearable if not for good friends at the Loveland Fire Department,” he said.

“The loss of one’s children is the greatest loss a parent can endure,” he added.

Linda Marriner of LaPorte comes each year to remember her father, Doc Ealy Lee, who died in the flood.

“He loved that river,” she said. Her father loved to fish and went every chance he got, although he would never keep his catch. Linda said he hated the taste.

Linda was joined by her son Luke, his wife Amy and their two sons, Colby, 3, and Caden, 5.

“It’s really about being with my mom,” Luke Marriner said. He has been to the ceremony every year.

He said his mom always talked about his grandfather while he was growing up.

“It was probably more me asking than her telling,” he said, and they have continued to talk about him with the two young boys as the anniversary rolls around.

“It’s important to keep this alive,” Luke said.

Each year, scholarships are given to living relatives of those who were lost. The scholarships come from donations, various fundraisers and sales of books “The Big Thompson Flood” and “Big Thompson Flood Disasters.”

The four recipients for 2017 are Drew Lanig, of Missouri, who is the great-grandson Joseph Appelbaum; Haley Haskell, of Iowa, who is the great-granddaughter of William and Emma Haskell and who lost four other family members; Shannon Peistrup, of Littleton, who is the great-granddaughter of Norma Peistrup; and Trenton Drake Allison, of Kansas, who is the great-grandson of Gene and Faith Saunders.

For more information on the yearly gathering or to donate, http://1976bigthompsonflood.org.

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